Ireland’s young among the most educated in Europe

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According to figures released earlier this week by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, Ireland has the highest proportion of young people who have attained a third-level education.

The EU target for third-level (or equivalent) education attainment in those aged between 30 and 34 currently stands at 40 per cent. Though the European average for 2012 fell short of this mark at 35.8 per cent, it is still a significant improvement on the attainment levels observable from the previous two years: in 2010 the EU average was 33.5 per cent; in 2011 it rose to 34.6 per cent.

Irish Education Growth

The level of tertiary education attainment in Ireland easily clears the EU average, as well as the 40 per cent EU target.  Indeed, at 51.1 per cent, Ireland is Europe’s top performer (Cyrus comes in second place with a 49.9 per cent attainment rate).

Ireland’s figure shows a steady improvement over the previous two years (49.9 and 49.7, respectively). The national target is to secure a third-level attainment rate of 60 per cent.

While this may seem exceedingly – and some might say unrealistically – high, another statistic in the report indicated an area in which there is clear room for improvement: gender disparity. Women between the ages studied (30-34) had an impressive attainment rate of 57.9 per cent – far in advance of the 44 per cent for men in same age bracket. If Ireland is to meet its 60 per cent tertiary education attainment rate ambition, this divide must be addressed and reduced.

Thinking Ahead

The knock on effects of having such a well-educated workforce should be clear – education creates opportunity. Foreign companies looking for a location to invest have traditionally been attracted to the corporate tax rate here (think Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc.), yes, but just as important an incentive has been the highly educated, well-trained and work-ready labour force we have.

And education assists not only with securing overseas investment, it ensures that businesses ideas are afforded the chance to develop and expand here also. The more we know, so the thinking goes, the more we grow.


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